RAC begins driverless electric shuttle bus trial in Perth

The RAC Intellibus will carry up to 11 passengers in South Perth and operate at an average speed of 25km per hour.

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Image: RAC

Australia's first driverless electric shuttle bus has hit the roads of Perth, Western Australia as part of an initial trial run by the Royal Automobile Club of WA (RAC) in partnership with the Western Australian government and vehicle manufacturer Navya

As part of the trial, the RAC Intellibus will carry passengers along South Perth Esplanade between the Old Mill, near the Narrows Bridge, and Sir James Mitchell Park. It can carry up to 11 passengers and will operate at an average speed of 25km per hour.

"We anticipate this first step in exploring driverless technology will start a conversation on further trials, research, and collaboration, which will increase WA's understanding of how driverless vehicles can integrate into our transport system," RAC group CEO Terry Agnew said.

"The trial will help WA develop a roadmap of changes that will need to occur for driverless vehicles to safely transition on to our roads and become an integrated part of our transport system.

Australia's industry body for driverless vehicles, the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative, agreed there are various potential use cases for the driverless electric bus.

"These are the perfect sized vehicles for use as an airport shuttle service, where passengers can be ferried from the terminal to their city hotel, around shopping centre carparks, or even from ride and park nodes, where someone can drive to a near-city parking spot and then be driven into the CBD for work after that," Peter Damen, ADVI spokesperson, said.

"Similarly, these types of vehicle could replace the current use of large buses for public transport, with smaller, more frequent shuttles delivering passengers to where they want to go, rather than the often inconvenient 'pick up and drop' timetable arrangement of a bus stop."

WA Innovation Minister Bill Marmion said the trial shows how innovation can reduce environmental impacts and also deliver to the community.

The shuttle has been tested off-road in a closed environment since its arrival in WA in April.

In South Australia similar tests were conducted at the end of last year by the South Australian government together with national independent road research agency ARRB Group that saw the successful trial of the country's first driverless car on Adelaide's Southern Expressway. The trial involved two Volvo XC90 vehicles that demonstrated automatic lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and active queue assist.

Shortly after, the South Australian government became the first Australian state to introduce laws to allow on-road trials of driverless cars.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said companies looking to trial technologies on South Australia's roads will simply have to submit plans of the proposed trial and have sufficient insurances to protect themselves and the public.

"These laws have received praise from companies at the forefront of this industry, which is estimated to be worth AU$90 billion within 15 years," Mullighan said.

"South Australia is now positioned to become a key player in this emerging industry and by leading the charge, we are opening up countless new opportunities for our businesses and our economy."

Following a test drive in the self-driving Tesla model S car, New South Wales Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts said earlier this year he intended to bring autonomous cars to the state, saying autonomous electric cars were the "future of driving" in NSW.

With AAP

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